A new study by University of Michigan researchers found that many individuals do not correctly utilize safety restraints for children in vehicles. The survey observed more than 21,000 children at child care centers, recreation centers, fast-food restaurants and gas stations. The researchers defined age-appropriate restraints according to guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Some of the shocking facts discovered by University of Michigan researchers were that more than a fifth of children younger than the age of 4 were not sitting in car seats as recommended by the AAP. The percentages grew as the ages increased. Thirty-three percent of 4- and 5-year-olds, as well as 66 percent of 6- and 7-year-olds, were not properly utilizing car seats or booster seats as suggested by the AAP.

Sadly, 11 percent of the children studied were found not to have been wearing seat belts or sitting in car seats at all. This phenomenon, however, was far more common when dealing with adult drivers who were not wearing seatbelts themselves, or dealing with four of more children within the vehicle.

The guidelines from the AAP recommend that children younger than the age of 2 be in rear-facing car seats, and children who measure smaller than 4-feet-9-inches tall (which includes most children between the ages of 8 and 12) use the proper booster seats. The AAP publishes car seat safety information for families on its website at healthychildren.org.

Today, many car seats are manufactured to be “convertible,” allowing the seat to grow with your child’s needs from rear- to forward-facing. There are a number of factors to keep in mind when selecting a child safety seat. The Babble Out, a website written by a working mother based on her research and first-hand experience, offers a handy list of tips for evaluating a car seat, as well as her top recommendations.

Even when parents and caregivers use a child safety seat, they can unintentionally put their child at risk if the seat is not properly installed, defective, or if it has been recalled. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains a searchable database of child seat recall campaigns. This is a good place to start. The database does not contain recalls that are more than 10 years old.

According to the NHTSA website, car seats usually have “expiration dates” set by the manufacturer, ranging from six to eight years from the date the seat was manufactured. So first, be sure that your car seat is not older than the recommended “useful life” of the product. The age and expiration date may be printed on the child safety seat, or you may need to contact the manufacturer for information.

It is also important to note that if a child safety seat has ever been used in a crash, the warranty on that seat’s safety is no longer valid. If you have been involved in any type of accident with your current safety seat installed in your vehicle, or a previous vehicle, you should purchase a new safety seat. This is true even if the accident was minor. Never remove a child safety seat from a vehicle damaged in a crash and install it in another vehicle.

Another problem that poses a danger to children even if their parents or caregivers are using car safety seats is that often the seat is not properly installed. It is important to read the instructions to make sure the safety seat not only meets the child’s age, height and weight guidelines, but that it is properly secured in the vehicle.

In order to help increase awareness about keeping children safe in cars, and ensure child safety seats are properly installed in vehicles, Beasley Allen Law Firm will sponsor Seat Check Saturday on Saturday, Sept. 22. The firm will partner with Safe Kids USA to present this FREE event for parents and child caregivers in the River Region. Parents and caregivers can simply drive up, and volunteers will inspect their child safety seats, make any necessary adjustments and answer questions.

Seat Check Saturday is part of National Child Safety Week, an annual event presented by the NHTSA. The local event will be held from 9 a.m. until noon in Montgomery at The Shoppes at EastChase, near EarthFare. This is the third year Beasley Allen has hosted a free Seat Check Saturday event.

LaBarron N. Boone, a partner at Beasley Allen, said, “We are committed to making this nation, this state and Montgomery, Alabama, safer by promoting Seat Check Saturday. Our goal is safety first. Spread the word and buckle up!”

New York Times
American Academy of Pediatrics
The Babble Out

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